- Aug 5, 2004
Rising immunity and modest changes in behavior may explain why cases are declining, but much remains unknown, scientists say.
After a brutal summer surge, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, the coronavirus is again in retreat.
The United States is recording roughly 90,000 new infections a day, down more than 40 percent since August. Hospitalizations and deaths are falling, too.
The crisis is not over everywhere — the situation in Alaska is particularly dire — but nationally, the trend is clear, and hopes are rising that the worst is finally behind us.
Over the past two years, the pandemic has crashed over the country in waves, inundating hospitals and then receding, only to return after Americans let their guard down.
It is difficult to tease apart the reasons that the virus ebbs and flows in this way, and harder still to predict the future.
But as winter looms, there are real reasons for optimism. Nearly 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and many children under 12 are likely to be eligible for their shots in a matter of weeks. Federal regulators could soon authorize the first antiviral pill for Covid-19.
“We are definitely, without a doubt, hands-down in a better place this year than we were last year,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at Boston University.
But the pandemic is not over yet, scientists cautioned. Nearly 2,000 Americans are still dying every day, and another winter surge is plausible. Given how many Americans remain unvaccinated, and how much remains unknown, it is too soon to abandon basic precautions, they said.
“We’ve done this again and again, where we let the foot off the pedal too early,” Dr. Bhadelia said. “It behooves us to be a bit more cautious as we’re trying to get to that finish line.”
...By and large, they did not recommend canceling holiday plans; many said they themselves would be celebrating with friends and relatives. But they did suggest taking sensible precautions.
There is still time to be vaccinated or encourage loved ones to be vaccinated before Thanksgiving. Wearing masks in certain high-risk settings, hosting events outdoors when the weather is nice and taking rapid Covid tests before holiday gatherings are all common-sense strategies for reducing risk, experts said.
“It doesn’t mean Lockdown Christmas No. 2,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan. “But it does mean that we should all just be mindful that this is not completely over yet.”